Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Khaki Cables...

All done! The frog closure was left off, and instead a separating zipper was used.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A yarn review

While I'm chugging away on Khaki cables, here's a brief review of the yarn I'm using.

Valley Yarns "Amherst" -- this is the 'house' brand of Webs (http://www.yarn.com/), a yarn company in Northampton, MA. It is a 4-ply worsted weight 100% merino available in 17 colors for $3.99 (US) per ball. It's sold in 50 gr. balls, with approx. 109 yards per ball -- I'm not very fluent in metric, but I believe that's a little over 98m. Suggested gauge is 4.5 stitches per inch on size 8 (US) needles. Like many other house brands, this yarn is spun in Peru. One thing that I've noticed with this and other "own label" yarns from Peru is that they are not quite as tightly spun as some others. Whether this has to do with economics, or is simply how yarn is produced in Peru I don't know, but it does intrigue me.

Different yarns give different knitting experiences, and this one has been a real pleasure to knit with. It's softness would be suitable for next-to-the-skin wear for most people I believe. Although not extremely tightly spun, it does show good stitch definition. I would anticipate that there may be some pilling with wear due to the fiber (merino) and the spinning. For me, the softness of the yarn would make dealing with pills bearable -- others may disagree. This particular garment is being knit at a slightly tighter gauge than the ball band recommendation -- perhaps this will help with pilling, but only time and wear will tell. I will definitely be using this yarn again, and look forward to trying some of the other Webs yarns. As always, just one woman's opinion.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I have to admit...

...that I'm of two minds about Nicky Epstein's work. I've admired some of it (mostly older designs) and thought "WTF???" about a good bit of it. So I approach each new book of hers with skepticism. I really liked Knitting On the Edge, thought she plowed some of the same ground with Knitting Over the Edge, and by the time I saw the felted purse book (which title escapes me) I was thinking "dear lord, won't someone please take her needles away" -- I mean a felted swan bag? Does anyone over the age of six really want to sling a felted swan over her/his shoulder? And now we have "Knitting Beyond the Edge."

This book is organized into chapters dealing with collars and cuffs, necklines, corners and edges, closures, a few patterns (5) and brief instructions for various necklines, converting a pullover pattern into a cardigan pattern and some knitting basics.

Most of the collars in chapter one are to be knit as separate pieces, then (I'm assuming here) worn over a basic sweater. Not my cup of tea, but if you like that concept you may find something that pleases. The cuffs are cast on and knit bottom up and evolve into plain stockinette -- wherein you would continue on with a regular sleeve pattern, as no further shaping is given. It is assumed that you are knitting to a gauge of 18s/26rows and all the patterns she gives you reflect that gauge.

The neckline chapter covers some scoops, several v-necks, shawl collar, mandarin collar, a couple of plackets and plenty of turtlenecks. Most are meant to be sewn in to a finished edge. In all cases finishing instruction is very skimpy -- it appears to be assumed that you have your own methods for sewing trims to garment, fur or beads to trim, etc., etc.

Corners and edges does contain some worthwhile (to me) patterns for mitered lace trims, along with general instructions for mitering (i.e. turning a corner) in both stockinette and garter knitting. However, many of the trims are not mitered at all, but are simply instructions for knitting an ell-shaped piece. And the instructions for a ribbed edging for a rounded edge? Well, basically you're told to "pick up and knit" -- no special technique, no special instructions.

I like many of the cabled bands in the closures section, and some of the flowered bands would be cute for a little girl (again, though, the trims are knit separately and sewn on). One of these days I'll try knitted frog closures, and there's a couple here.

Patterns? Well, there are five, and two of them feature peplum waists. No, really. There's also a hooded shawl, a faux Fair Isle jacket, and a deep v-necked sleeveless sweater -- for the very toned I suppose, since the vee extends 13" down into a 20" (total) front piece, and is meant to be worn as the only layer over -- well, over skin I suppose, since the model wasn't wearing any undergarments.

I tend to buy knitting books first, then decide later if they're worth holding on to. If I had a tight budget for knitting books though, this is one I'd pass up. For me, the few techniques that I'd like to try just don't add up to the $29.95US price tag -- I'd have been better off waiting for it at our local library. As always, your mileage (and opinion) may vary.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Yarn diet?

Lots of buzz around blogland these days about knitting from your stash. It's a fine idea -- lots of serious knitters have more yarn stashed than they'll use in a lifetime, but for me it's just not happening. The biggest reason -- my stash is predominately yarn I've bought (usually on sale) for projects for me. Too risky to stockpile yarn meant for others -- the daughter who once loved jewel tones is head to toe in black these days. The fuzzy mohair they loved a few years ago? Not so much now. And sure, my tastes could change a bit too, but at my age (old as dirt) I've learned what works for me as to yarn weights, fibers and colors -- thus not so many wild swings with each year's change in fashion. So, good for me, but not so good when someone else requests a handmade item -- chances are that their favorite color/fiber won't be available by stash shopping. Also, since I stockpile to suit my own taste -- well, you might notice a color trend in the photo of representative skeins from the stash. Can you guess my favorite color? Right! But maybe knitting/crocheting nothing but peach/orange sweaters could get just a wee bit tedious. So, some for now -- some for later! I probably wouldn't even have so much of one shade anyway if it weren't such a cyclical color. All colors wander in/out of fashion favor to some extent, but it seems that once the oranges fade out it takes much longer until they're back again. So, kudos to those who are yarn dieting and using up that stash. It's a good thing to make use of what you have. But as for me, well, I'll still be searching out those bargains on peach, coral and burnt orange -- hey, they could be "out" tomorrow. And meanwhile...progress continues on Khaki Cables.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Awww, isn't he cute?

Taking a break from knitting/crochet for a cute puppy shot -- Monty in his yellow raincoat.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

New beginnings...

A brand new year seems to call out for a brand new project, no? So despite the piles of WIPS I felt compelled to cast on something new -- Pattern is from the latest issue of Knitters (called Khaki Cables, I think). I was surprised to find several things in this issue that I would consider making, as I have been very disappointed in recent issues of Knitters. I'll be changing the closure -- it features an I-cord knitted frog closure, but I think the person I'm knitting this for would prefer something more streamlined -- a separating zipper, perhaps? The yarn I'm using is a house brand from Webs -- Amherst, a merino yarn. It's ultra soft, and delightful to knit with -- I expect there may be pilling issues with wear, but I think the feel of this will be well worth a little maintenance. It seems to be the latest thing for online yarn retailers to carry their own brand -- Elann, KnitPicks, Webs, and now Patternworks. Most of it seems to be coming from Peru -- hmmm, wonder if it's all from the same mill?